Straight From Tribeca: ‘Keep Surfing’ Review

A fast-paced and dynamic film, “Keep Surfing,” by Surfer and first time director Bjoern Richie Lob, gives new meaning to surfing by taking a back seat to the ocean and hitting the river. Featuring six surfers from the Eisbach in Munich, Germany this documentary reveals the history, the dangers and of course, the fun of river surfing.

Among the locals are Quirin “the Pro” Rohleder, sponsored at age 17 with his fresh style making it pro, Dieter “The Eater” Deventer, a river-surfing pioneer who tells of his younger daughter’s surfing related accident and grumpy Walter “The Janitor of the Eisbach” Strasser, who cleverly used a raft to create constant waves in the river for 24 hour surfing. Cali surfer, Eli Mack makes his way from the SoCal waves to the rivers of Munich and Canada, as he looks back on the toxic influence the subculture had on him and steers ahead towards a better future with his wife and kids.

Subtitles were provided since the movie was filmed in German, French and very little English, so you’ll have to read quickly. The subtitles, combined with the quickness of passing by and the sounds heard by the person speaking, make it difficult to read. The color of the dialogue (white) put a strain on one’s eyes as well, as the words would at times blend in with the color of the speaker’s shirt or background.

The loss of dialogue, however, makes no difference as it is easy to get swept away by the amazing visuals, scrupulously crafted camera angles that make for a scrumptious treat for the eyes. Breathtaking shots capture the surfers in action, performing hang-tens, laybacks and 180/360s with sublime style. Along with customary shots, the filmmakers turn on the slow-mo, enabling viewers to witness the fancy footwork needed to pull off tricks and stay afloat. Gracefully executed, it appears that the surfer is moving in one fluid motion turning the outrageous sport into an elegant dance as is assumed by the words “You go dancing in the river,” (Seek & Hide by Ina Simone and The Lonesome Thrones) playing in the background.

“Keep Surfing,” has a killer soundtrack by Philip Stegers and Lee Buddah, with songs by Dimi (German Rapper) and The Elastics (UK Band). Each upbeat song matches the flair of the surfer, tying each scene together, making you want to go out and learn how to surf.

Lob switches it up by attaching a camera to the actual surfboards, allowing the viewers to get a glimpse of surfing through the surfer’s perspective. When a surfer falls off his board, the camera goes too, giving the feeling of being sucked under the water after a wipe out.

Set in different locations (Germany, France, Canada, Scandinavia and Tahiti), “Keep Surfing” features a great combo of Eisbach locals and surf legends like Nick Carroll and Kelly Slate through a ten-year period in order to expose the 30-year-old sport to the rest of the world, first started by Arthur Paul. Besides the extra footage of Walter and his career in crafting didgeridoos (stretching out the documentary; making it a bit too long), the film is sure to hold the viewer’s attention, changing your perspective on surfing and guaranteeing a restroom stop from all the water.

Winning the 2009 Audience Award during the Munich International Film Festival,“Keep Surfing,” breaks the mold by documenting a variety of talented surfers, confirming its immediate success among the public.

Creating its own unique subculture, river surfing is more than an extreme sport or past time, tackling waves head on as opposed to the ocean where the waves come from behind, it’s a lifestyle for the locals at the Eisbach. Juggling work and play, these thrill seekers will stop at nothing to catch a few waves, even if it means braving the deadly rapids of Skookumchuck, Canada with Mack or jumping off a bridge into flood waters with local Florian “air” Kummer.

Taking surfing to new heights, Lob places viewers smack in the middle of the Eisbach with this adrenaline inducing documentary, provoking anyone with a pulse to hit the surf.

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Maria Bonello

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